Despite my cultural heritage, I am the least black person in the entire world. The only competitors for this award are Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the entire cast of The Cosby Show. You might ask how I can label an entire ensemble of actors as “acting white.” Well, maybe you should watch that show again.
As a biracial individual who trends toward stereotypically white behavior, I am often the object of affection for white women who are eager to date a person of color, but are turned off by what they deem to be the more threatening aspects of black culture. In short, I am not the grotesque caricature of a minority that their parents have stored inside their thick, baby boomer skull. You can take me home to your awkward white parents and not have to worry that I will start waxing poetic on the cultural significance of “C.R.E.A.M.”
And then there’s the gals out there who fancy themselves an honorary “b-boy,” own every KRS-One album and quote Cornell West at dinner. These ladies find me attractive for reasons I don’t understand. I have no clue what “C.R.E.A.M.” stands for. “Can’t Really Eat A Marshmallow”? I’m too afraid to Google it, because it might be naughty and I do everything on my work computer and what if they check my search history and find nudie pictures and then I get fired and… nevermind.
I appreciate white people going to great lengths to appropriate black culture. Elvis, Eminem and Kevin Federline have every right to behave any way they want to, and if they want to borrow some of our “swag,” so be it. Most black people I know have so much swag they don’t know what to do with it all, so they’re happy to give back to the less fortunate among us. Black people are especially generous with their swag during Black History Month, so be sure to visit your local Foot Locker for a hot swag injection.
My only issue with white people “acting black” is when they feel the need to question why I don’t jump on board the Soul Train. I never made a conscious decision to act one way or another. I’ve just been myself for the entirety of my life. “Myself” just happens to really enjoy the McLaughlin Group on PBS and going to Whole Foods.
The fact that society even bothers to make the distinction between what is “black” and what is “white” creates an unavoidable tension in interracial couples and their children. Even if I never chose to be one way or the other, I was constantly being pressured to pick which culture I preferred. I had to identify. I had to put myself in a category. Any time I filled out a form or survey growing up, I’d need to make a choice. It wasn’t until the tail end of high school and the start of my 20s that I began to see “Other” or “Mixed Race” on anything. “Decline to State” was always the most embarrassing one to have to choose, because it just made me seem like I was hiding a dirty secret.
If we all just decided one day that culture is amorphous and ever-changing, and that people were free to act any way they wanted to without expectation, interracial dating would be so much easier. Of course, if that happened, the universe would stop making sense. Gravity would cease to exist, monkeys would develop speech and enslave the human race, pigs would start flying and Two and a Half Men would be hilarious.
We are stuck in the prison of our stereotypes and prejudices. We aren’t that far removed from the days when Carlton on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the butt of countless jokes just for liking Tom Jones. I happen to think that “Thunderball” is a fantastic song. Also, I appreciate any man with such ample chest hair.
Let’s hope that one day, we can live in a world where no one snickers at a black man who loves hairy Welsh pop singers, Asians who are bad at math, Mexicans with no interest in soccer and gay people with terrible fashion sense.